Margie Oehlert proved her mettle as a director by drawing strong performances out of all 12 performers in last week’s Panhandle Players’ production of C.B. Gilbert’s “Jury Room” at the Dixie Theatre.

Everyone is talking about this latest success, especially since a drama is new ground for the local thespians that excel at lighter fare.

Petite as she is, Katie McFarland as the “Actress” carried enough weight on stage to balance out an unsettling performance by “Angry Man” Robbie Johnson, whose strong physical presence and shifting eyes forewarned of the surprising twist at the end of the show.

Newcomer David Adlerstein as the “Man with the Glasses,” provided comic relief and moved the action along with his wisecracking banter.

Denise Butler, “Society Woman,” with swipes of her flipping fan and jabs from her sharp tongue, chastised the other jury members and complained about missed society dos.

Sally Crown and Judy Loftus positively bristled as a pair of old biddies determined to sentence young Julie Fletcher, the unseen heroine of the play, to a hot seat in “Old Sparky.”

Not only did McFarland take a stand against the Angry Man, she took charge of “Young Man,” Royce Rolstad III, who was her somewhat retiring love interest.

The “Foreman” played by Gary Niblack, was a unifying force in the plot.

The cast was rounded out by gum chewing “Blond” bimbo Laura Baney, spooky “Brunette” spiritualist Bobbi Ann Seward, “Shy Girl” Jeana Crozier and “Middle-Aged Man” Bob Caiola, in his first ever role.

As the plot thickens, each member of the jury assumes a second role as they attempt to recreate the murder of Adrian Fletcher. Caiola was especially engaging as he warmed to his part as Fletcher’s butler Martin and caught the eye of the Society Woman who winds up offering him a job on her staff.

Be sorry if you missed the Jury Room, a good time was had by all. - By LOIS SWOBODA